One of the major principles of play therapy is that you focus on the relationship, the child, and the existent positives rather than the problematic behaviors or issues you wish to change. The reason for that is that adults tend to over-exaggerate the negative and neglect to acknowledge the positive, and children rarely are given the opportunity to demonstrate how responsible, kind, compassionate and well-behaved they can be.
In several recent months, we have taken our son to new places with a ton of kids that were a tad overwhelming. Kayne is very reserved in new situations until he feels comfortable, and tends to feel uneasy if he does not have someone helping him navigate the new situation. In both instances that come to mind, he was in a play area for kids that was full of rowdy, rough-housing, loud, and much older kids. Needless to say, for a two year old it was a little intimidating. My husband and I were encouraging him to follow other kids through the play area and meet us on the other end.
Both times, he got about half way through and just stopped. He didn’t really know whether to turn around and go back or keep going to the end. Neither my husband nor I were able to reach him from where we were, so we were encouraging him to continue. Both times, an older boy (pre-teen or so) took the responsibility of encouraging our son to go with him to the end as his “buddy”. Kayne was able to follow these two boys and feel more comfortable in both situations.
What is the most interesting is what these two boys were up to before they offered to help. One was with a friend, and they were racing each other to the end at the expense and danger of the younger kids in the obstacle course. They were very careless and unaware of the impact that they were having on the toddlers. The other boy who helped was playing with his brother, and tended to have a very physical manner of interacting with each other, including pushing, shoving and scrambling over each other to win. More to the point, not kids you would automatically choose to take care of your young child.
But in both circumstances, they rose to the occasion when they realized there was a need that they were able to meet. They were not asked or forced to be helpful and considerate to my son, but they chose to do so because under any negative behavior, there is ALWAYS goodness in children. And in both instances, my husband and I made it a point to acknowledge and encourage their efforts, and let them know how much it meant to us that they made the decision that they did.
I love it when I have the opportunity to witness children using their gifts, personalities, abilities and skills to make a difference for others. Those positive traits may not be the most commonly demonstrated, but are certainly the ones most worth seeing and believing in!